Risk: Factions is an enjoyable and surprisingly humorous take on the board game you already know and love or possibly loathe. Whether you're into strategy games or not, you'll find something enjoyable here.
I have a confession to make. Perhaps not so much a confession as it is a statement of fact about my gaming personality. I don't like strategy games. It's nothing personal. I wasn't beaten up by one as a child on the playground, nor have I ever had one steal a girlfriend. They're interesting concepts, and I admire them and those who play them. They require a level of persistent patience that I have never been able call upon with a controller (or mouse and keyboard) in my hands.
When asked to review 'Risk: Factions,' I was hesitant. I felt as though I had been asked to relay the plot of a German film to someone, only I would be required to watch the film without subtitles. I have taken a number of German language classes throughout high school and college, but we all know how well that sort of information sticks in your brain after a number of years. I would be playing the game, but I would only be able to understand and appreciate a few words here and there.
So let me say here, from the point of view of someone who understands very little of the strategy genre, and appreciates it even less, Risk: Factions is enjoyable.
It's like Risk, but marginally cooler
The original Risk exists here for those who enjoy excruciatingly long games that will make or break your personal relationships with the role of the dice, but the real star of the show is the 'Factions mode.' It's like Risk, but there all kinds of fancy bonuses all over the map, and the games are thankfully playable in less than the average length of a game of Risk, which I have found is to be about 349 hours.
You play as an assortment of different "factions," (see what they did there?) fighting from each side of a continuing war. It starts out as a one on one battle, but escalates level to level until there are five different factions duking it out for land control. Each faction takes their turn, positioning their troops around the map, trying to take control while simultaneously defending what they've already been lucky enough to take over. And luck, rather frustratingly so, has a lot to do with it.
Lady luck hates it when you win
When troops meet one another on the battlefield; dice are rolled to see who wins. You roll as many dice as invading troops you have, with a max of three. The defending player rolls dice based on the same deal, number of defending troops equals number of dice, but they have a max of two because they are being passive about combat. It is not an accumulation game though; it is highest die versus highest die. Because of this, it is possible to lose a battle even if you greatly outnumber your enemy. You can roll your three separate dice, but if they're all low numbers, you're probably still going to lose, even if that stupid cat only rolls one die. This also means that you will hurt your televisions feelings when you shout many insulting expletives at the screen.
I will explain the cat later.
Dice roll sessions are accompanied by animations that put your battles into perspective. Enemies will shoot, vomit and scratch at one another to symbolize battle. As cool and funny as these animations are, I can almost guarantee you will start skipping them immediately. There is no advantage to watching them, and skipping them allows you to hurry the game along, something I was crying for after having to attempt certain levels multiple times.
You could write a 1000 word essay between turns
Pacing can be a major problem here, but it is a Risk game after all, so you should know what you are getting into. Skipping enemy turns would have gone a long way toward speeding up the gameplay, but unfortunately, no such option exists. You have to bear witness to each turn, and even though useful information can be gathered during each enemy turn, missing out on it would not have hindered the difficulty. I have actually been working on this review between each turn, in order to get some work done whole waiting for the enemy to hurry up and attack.
The way to win the game is to meet certain outlined criteria. Things like take over this base, or conquer this continent. You can view these objectives at just about any time, but the game pauses, and that is almost as silly as a cat trying to defeat a zombie. I should be able to look at my checklist of objectives without pausing the game. It's a very specific complaint, but there were many of these small little annoyances that made the game crawl along.
War and Peace
There is a story that goes along with the game, and it explains at least partially why vomiting is an acceptable attack in war. It tells the story of a number of war hungry nations as they attack each other, usually by accident. The humans piss off the cats, which leads to self-aware robots and zombies eventually fall into the mix, because I don't think you are allowed to release a game anymore without at least some reference to zombies. I won't mention final faction here, but I will say they were hanging out in snowy left field during the first battles. The story is short on dialogue and mostly set in place as a funny premise for a bunch of war crazy factions to start beating the crap out of each other. It's definitely one of the highlights of the experience.
If you are impatient, you have probably already scrolled down to the bottom of the page to see the somewhat low score I attributed to the graphics. It is not that the graphics are bad necessarily; they're just totally passable and uninspired. You'll forget what the characters looked like after you've beaten the game.
Even if you're not a fan of strategy games, there is still a really enjoyable game here as long as you're willing to take the time to learn the game. I am a testament to this. If you enjoy strategy games, especially if you're a fan of the Risk boardgame, you will definitely have a good time here. It's often difficult to get a strategy game working with a console controller, but Risk: Factions pulls it off without any control complaints. It won't be inspiring any strategy holdouts to declare a newfound love of the genre, but they certainly won't hate it. There is online play too, when you get tired of beating on zombies and robots.
Final Score: 7.0
Reviewed by Kyle Hilliard | 06.28.10
- Animated cut-scenes that are completely worth watching
- It's a strategy that works totally fine with a controller
- The original Risk is part of the package, if you hate playing as a zombie, cat or robot
- I grew a full beard waiting for this game to hurry up
- Some of the rules can be somewhat ambiguous to newcomers